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Diabetes and Sex

Sex Problems in Men With Diabetes

Men with diabetes may experience the following sexual problems:
Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (also known as impotence or ED) is a consistent inability to have an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The condition includes:
  • The total inability to have an erection
  • The inability to sustain an erection
  • The occasional inability to have or sustain an erection.
Estimates of the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes range from 20 to 85 percent. A recent study of a clinic population revealed that 5 percent of the men with erectile dysfunction also had undiagnosed diabetes.
Men who have diabetes are three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men who do not have diabetes. Among men with erectile dysfunction, those with diabetes are likely to have experienced the problem as much as 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes.
In addition to diabetes, other major causes of erectile dysfunction include:
Erectile dysfunction may also be caused by:
  • Side effects of medications
  • Psychological factors
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal deficiencies.
If you experience erectile dysfunction, talking to your doctor about it is the first step in getting help. Your doctor may ask you about:
  • Your medical history
  • The type and frequency of your sexual problems
  • Your medications
  • Your smoking and drinking habits
  • Other health conditions.
A physical exam and laboratory tests may help pinpoint causes. Your blood glucose control and hormone levels will be checked. The doctor may also ask whether you are depressed or have recently experienced upsetting changes in your life. In addition, you may be asked to do a test at home that checks for erections that occur while you sleep.
Treatments for erectile dysfunction caused by nerve damage, also called neuropathy, vary widely and include:
  • Oral pills
  • A vacuum pump
  • Pellets placed in the urethra
  • Shots directly into the penis
  • Surgery.
All these methods have strengths and drawbacks. Psychotherapy to reduce anxiety or address other issues may be necessary. Surgery to implant a device to aid in erection or to repair arteries is another option.
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